Clarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University’s baseball team will open play at the Ohio Valley Conference championship, 6:00pm, Tuesday, at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, AL with their work cut out for them if they are to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The Govs (26-28, 13-16 OVC) finished seventh in the final regular-season standing in the conference and will open the tournament versus UT Martin (25-29, 12-18 OVC), the tournament’s eighth seed.Under the new OVC Baseball Tournament format this year, this game will be an elimination game, a play-in game so to speak, with the loser seeing their season come to an end, while the winner advances to the double-elimination part of the tournament – but having already burned one of their top pitcher just to get there.
And while pitching in a short tournament setting like this always turns out to be a major factor in who eventually comes away with the title, it is even more so for the Govs this season, with Austin Peay only having two starting pitchers (Josh Rye 6-4, Brett Newberg 3-1), with at least five starts this season having a winning record coming into the tournament.
One positive though is they do seem to perform better versus the teams that made the tournament field, rather than the teams that fell short of making the postseason, with the Govs entering the tournament with a 10-10 record versus the tournament field – compared to a 3-6 mark versus OVC teams not in the tournament.
During the season, the Govs won three OVC series, sweeping Jacksonville State 3-0, downing Belmont and UT Martin 2-1 – while tying Morehead State 1-1.
Austin Peay went 1-2 versus Southeast Missouri and Murray State, while dropping all three games versus regular-season champion Tennessee Tech.
But while Tennessee Tech looms as the one conference opponent the Govs didn’t beat during the regular season, one other thing to note is the Govs haven’t had a win streak longer than three games this spring – which they did twice – and something they will have to accomplish with between five and eight games between them and the tournament championship.
The Govs do enter the tournament with a two-game win streak.
If the Govs get by UT Martin, they will open double-elimination play versus number-two seed Morehead State (34-21, 18-11 OVC), 7:00pm, Wednesday, in the final first-round game of the tournament.
The OVC Baseball Championship Tournament will run through Saturday, May 27th – or possibly Sunday May 28th, if they have to play a second championship game — and while it may be cliché to say, if the Govs are to add a seventh title to the trophy case they will have to play their best baseball of the season this week.